Picture credit - Business Ethics

Information from the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission shows that the nation’s two largest private prison companies donated more than $250,000 to elected officials over the last three years.

AllOnGeorgia routinely examines the influence private prison companies have on Georgia’s legislators. The most recent examination looks at reports filed between January 1, 2019 and January 31, 2020.

The GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) both have automatically renewing contracts with the State of Georgia that are not negotiated annually and have been in place for over two decades. The contracts require that the four facilities under private supervision maintain a certain occupancy rate or the state faces a penalty.

Donations Still Cross Party Lines

The most notable donation was the $2,500 to Rep. Terry England who requested the audit in 2018 which revealed that private prison facilities are not cheaper per inmate.

Governor Brian Kemp also received a total of $18,100 in donations from CoreCivic in September 2019 – $7,000 for the 2022 Primary Election, $7,000 for the 2022 General Election, and $4,100 for the Run-off – while the GEO Group sent $7,000 for the 2022 primary, bringing his grand total to $25,100. 

The Georgia Republican Party landed a $10,000 donation from the company in March 2019 and Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan pulled in $5,000 from The GEO Group over the last year.

Lawmaker
Leadership Position
Private Prison Group
Donation Amount
Date
Political Party
Rep. Barry Fleming Chair – Judiciary Cmte The GEO Group $500 01/07/2020 Republican
Rep. Bill Hitchens Chair Public Safety Committee The GEO Group $1,000 01/07/2020 Republican
Rep. Bob Trammell Minority Leader The GEO Group $1,000 10/16/2019 Democrat
Rep. Brett Harrell Chair – Ways & Means Cmte The GEO Group $1,000 09/24/2019 Republican
Rep. Brian Prince The GEO Group $500 12/19/2019 Democrat
Rep. David Ralston Speaker of the House CoreCivic $2,500 11/15/2019 Republican
Rep. David Ralston Speaker of the House The GEO Group $2,500 01/11/2020 Republican
Rep. Emory Dunahoo The GEO Group $500 01/09/2020 Republican
Rep. Gerald Greene Chair – State Properties Cmte $500 12/26/2019 Republican
Rep. Greg Morris Chair Banks & Banking Committee CoreCivic $500 01/02/2020 Republican
Rep. Jan Jones Speaker Pro Tem CoreCivic $500 11/08/2019 Republican
Rep. Jan Jones Speaker Pro Tem The GEO Group $1,000 04/24/2019 Republican
Rep. Jan Jones Speaker Pro Tem The GEO Group $1,000 10/16/2019 Republican
Rep. John Corbett Chair – Motor Vehicles The GEO Group $500 01/12/2020 Republican
Rep. Jon Burns Majority Leader CoreCivic $1,500 01/12/2019 Republican
Rep. Jon Burns Majority Leader CoreCivic $1,300 11/20/2019 Republican
Rep. Jon Burns Majority Leader CoreCivic $1,200 11/20/2019 Republican
Rep. Jon Burns Majority Leader The GEO Group $1,000 11/12/2019 Republican
Rep. Karen Bennett The GEO Group $1,000 10/16/2019 Democrat
Rep. Karen Bennett The GEO Group $1,000 5/16/2019 Democrat
Rep. Matt Hatchett The GEO Group $1,000 01/07/2020 Republican
Rep. Micah Gravely Vice Chair – House GOP Caucus CoreCivic $500 01/11/2019 Republican
Rep. Rick Williams The GEO Group $1,000 01/16/2020 Republican
Rep. Terry England Chair Appropriations Committee CoreCivic $2,500 11/07/2019 Republican
Rep. Terry Rogers Governor’s Floor Leader The GEO Group $1,000 10/16/2019 Republican
Sen. Blake Tillery CoreCivic $2,500 11/20/2019 Republican
Sen. Blake Tillery The GEO Group $1,000 01/06/2020 Republican
Sen. Butch Miller Senate President Pro Tem The GEO Group $2,500 10/15/2019 Republican
Sen. Freddie Powell Sim CoreCivic $500 09/20/2019 Democrat
Sen. Gail Davenport the GEO Group $1,000 12/16/2019 Democrat
Sen. Jack Hill Chair Appropriations Committee The GEO Group $1,000 01/08/2020 Republican
Sen. Jesse Stone Chair – Judiciary CoreCivic $1,500 11/06/2019 Republican
Sen. Jesse Stone Chair – Judiciary CoreCivic $1,000 01/12/2019 Republican
Sen. John Albers Chair – Public Safety The GEO Group $1,000 01/09/2020 Republican
Sen. Lester Jackson Chair – Urban Affairs Cmte The GEO Group $1,000 12/17/2019 Democrat
Sen. Mike Dugan The GEO Group $1,000 10/16/2019 Republican
Sen. Steve Gooch Chair Transportation Committee The GEO Group $1,000 10/01/2019 Republican
Sen. Tyler Harper Chair – Nat. Resources Cmt CoreCivic $500 05/06/2019 Republican
Sen. Tyler Harper Chair – Nat. Resources Cmt CoreCivic $1,500 11/22/2019 Republican
Sen. Valencia Seay the GEO Group $1,000 10/16/2019 Democrat
Sen. William Ligon Chair – Banks & Banking The GEO Group $500 01/09/2020 Republican

TOTAL 

$45,000

 

Donations since January 1, 2019:

Legislative Donations $45,000
Donations to Govenor $25,100
Donations to Lt. Governor $5,000
Ga Republican Party $10,000
TOTAL $85,100

 

The 2019 donations follow the filing of House Bill 403, which  would eliminate private contracts for detention facilities in Georgia – including jails and prisons alike. The measure was filed by State Representatives Scott Holcomb, Carl Gilliard, Gregg Kennard, Miriam Paris, Carolyn Hugley, and Bee Nguyen.

Specifically, the definition of detention center would include “prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, parole revocation centers, long-term and short-term youth detention centers, boot camps, and probation detention centers” that are operated by the Georgia Department of Corrections. It would not cover federal facilities in Georgia.

The language of the bill does not cancel any current contracts in place but would bar the renewal of any contracts once they expire.

In April 2018,  the Corrections Accountability Project released the names of over 3,100 corporations—including over 2,500 privately traded companies—that profit from the United States prison system. (That report is here) The information detailed above only includes that of the two largest companies in the nation and the two with active contracts with the state of Georgia.

You can read the article about the influence of private prisons in 2017 and the 2018 election cycle here.

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Jessica Szilagyi
Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

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